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Film / Heartbreakers

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Heartbreakers is a 2001 romantic comedy/caper film directed by David Mirkin and starring Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Gene Hackman, and Jason Lee.

The plot follows Max and Paige Conners (Weaver and Hewitt respectively), a pair of mother and daughter con women. Max marries rich men and then quickly sets them up to cheat on her with Paige and then claims most of their money in a divorce settlement. When the movie starts Paige wants to break away from her mother and start conning on her own but the IRS has just seized all their money so the two decide to pull off one big con on Palm Beach. Max poses as a Russian woman to snag the billionaire William B Tensey (Hackman) in hopes of paying off the IRS and setting Paige up for conning on her own. Meanwhile Liotta plays Dean, the last man the women conned, who wants a second chance with Max and stumbles across their con.


"Trope Alert":

  • Abusive Parent: Max isn't exactly Joan Crawford but she's willing to trip her daughter on a concrete floor just to gain a free hotel room.
  • All for Nothing: We spend most of the movie believing that Max and Paige are doing the con just to pay off the IRS but it turns out Max used her old partner to fool Paige and stop her from going out on her own.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Deconstructed beautifully. Max and Paige make their money off this trope, doing their very best to con all men using their sex appeal. Paige's mentality is "we can't make a scumbag do anything a scumbag wouldn't do". But then when it appears even nice guy Jack cheats on Paige with Max, it turns out she had to drug him because he turned her down. And Dean gives Max a speech telling her that although he cheated, he is genuinely sorry because he lost her and wants to try again.
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  • All There in the Script: Max's full name is never mentioned once in the whole movie, but it may be diminutive for "Maxine."
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with Max and Dean working a new con on Barbara.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: The setting for the last con is Palm Beach. Usually the Conners stay away from these people, as they are likely to be suspicious of cons. But since they need to pay off the IRS, they go for an all or nothing deal.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Olga's" accent is not even close to being authentic but it just needs to sound convincing enough to fool Tensey. Ditto for Paige's "English" accent as Allison.
  • Asshole Victim: Max and Page's cons are predicated on the mark wilfully committing adultery; as Page notes, "we can't make a scumbag do anything a scumbag wouldn't do". Also, they regularly target marks who deal in rather shady types of business, as it makes them agreeing to out-of-court settlements much easier (as bringing the divorce proceedings in front of a judge might leave them open for criminal proceedings).
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Max runs into Dean again he reaches into his coat pocket seemingly to whip out a gun...instead it's an engagement ring. And then it turns out he did have a gun in his trousers.
  • Becoming the Mask: Paige intends to con Jack out of $3 million but then goes and falls in love with him.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Tensey takes "Olga" to a Russian restaurant where she knows only one word of Russian and is then called upon to sing a traditional Russian song. She covers up by singing "Back in the USSR" instead.
  • Bitch Alert: The Trope Namer, courtesy of the below line. She's referring to Ms. Madress, Tensy's housekeeper.
    MAX: "We have a bitch alert."
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: After warm reunion with Max, her old mentor Barbara ends up swindling her out of her entire savings.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Max and Paige switch between all three colours in their various identities; both are brunette as themselves, Max is redhead as "Olga" and blonde as "Angela" while Paige is redhead as "Wendy" and blonde as "Allison".
  • Boring, but Practical: Max is shown to have a preference for these types of cons. Besides choosing marks that are relatively affluent but not wealthy, and thus less suspicious, her choice to scam a free night in a hotel involves faking a fall and squirting some water on the ground (whereas Paige wanted to use a gambit involving a trumpet and a talking parrot) and when she and Paige have a contest to see who can get a guy to buy them a drink first Max ultimately wins by feigning a cough.
  • Brainless Beauty: Paige. She's not cartoonishly stupid but she makes plenty of mistakes whenever she's operating on her own, including managing to forget her purse twice in the same night and nearly choking herself for real while attempting to fake choking. She also has a much poorer ability to 'read' targets than her mother. All of this is combined with the limitless confidence of a Proud Beauty.
  • Brick Joke: A twofer in the one gag. When looking at potential Palm Beach husbands, the second option is a playboy entertaining several girls on a yacht - Max implying they'd likely have to have a fivesome with him. Later when Paige meets Jack with his telescope, she assumes he's using it to spy on people on boats (when he's stargazing). After Paige leaves he goes back to his telescope - and we can now see a yacht in the distance - where he exclaims "is that five people!"
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Dean at the start although it's more caught with a woman stuck on your pants.
  • Chained to a Bed: Dean gets tied to the bed by Max, thinking they're going to do it.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The statue of the man with the erection. Tensey draws special attention to him having the penis repaired. He hits his head off the penis and it dies.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Max makes several references to her old partner Barbara. Turns out Barbara was actually 'Gloria Vogel', the supposed IRS agent - actually part of a scam to stop Paige going out on her own. And she ends up conning them out of their money.
  • The Con: Naturally.
    • The most common one is to marry a rich man and then get Paige to seduce him so Max can clear him out in a divorce settlement. They know other cons as well - such as putting glass in their food to get free dinner, faking an accident to get a hotel room and distracting a guy so they can use his credit card to pay for gas.
    • Max was never in trouble with the IRS. Her old partner Barbara was posing as a tax woman. Then while pulling said con, Barbara cleared the two of them out of every penny in their bank accounts.
    • While trying to seduce Jack to pay Dean's money, Max drugs him to get Paige to think he was unfaithful.
  • Cruel Mercy: When Dean discovers Max and Page's plan he threatens to kill them, only for Max to point out his gun is empty. He then says he'll have them thrown in jail, and says "I don't have to kill you to kill you".
  • Death as Comedy: Tensey dying just as he's proposed to Max is Played for Laughs - as is their attempt to dispose of the body.
  • Disappeared Dad: Paige's dad pulled a "conceive and leave"
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted as Max is revealed to have drugged Jack and got him into bed so Paige can get money from a divorce. Dean reacts with disgust and Paige nearly strangles Max when she finds out, although she still more or less gets off scot-free.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Max and Paige have different hairstyles for their different identities.
  • Fanservice: Remains Jennifer Love Hewitt's hottest movie (most telling critical comment: "Wonderful performance by Hewitt's breasts"). Sigourney Weaver's no slouch in this department either - getting a Lingerie Scene and several very flattering dresses.
  • Fauxreigner: Max pretends to be Russian and Paige pretends to be English. Hilarity Ensues when Tensey takes Max to a Russian restaurant.
  • Foot Focus: Max invokes this, having her shoe fall off at the bar and getting a man to help her put it back on.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Paige and Jack. This also seems to be the raison d'etre for the whole con - since Max claims her record is three months. Tensey beats it by proposing to her after a month (albeit motivated by the belief that Max's cover identity will be deported without legitimate papers).
  • French Maid Outfit: Invoked by Paige when she poses as 'Allison' - a potential maid for Tensey. But she gives Allison an English accent rather than French, presumably to avoid being too obvious.
  • Gag Penis: Dean is implied to be VERY well endowed.
  • Genre Shift: Two-thirds of the way through, the movie shifts from being a con movie to being a Romantic Comedy.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: The con at Palm Beach.
  • The Ghost: Barbara, Max's mentor who taught her the con. Subverted when we find out Barbara was actually Gloria Vogel, the IRS woman Max used to fool Paige.
  • Golddiggers: As should be obvious from the description.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Max's wedding dress in the opening is a pale lilac, helping with her fake wholesome image.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Paige is the Maiden, Max is the Matron and Barbara is the Crone.
  • Heel Realization: Max when she realizes how she's ruining her daughter's life.
  • Honey Traps: The con goes as follows - Max marries the rich man by pretending to be a wholesome woman, only for Paige to seduce him and Max then to catch him in the act.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Dean says to Max, "if you're gonna be my wife then you're gonna lead a respectable life...chopping cars".
  • In Love with the Mark:
    • Discussed by Max:
    "Cute is dangerous. Cute leads to feelings which leads to screwing. Which leads to screwed"
    • Ultimately ends up being played straight by Paige. And technically Max with Dean, though they don't make things official until he knows about the con.
  • Irony: The reason Max decides on Tensey for their big score was a combination of his age and chronic smoking, hoping that he would kick the bucket soon after the wedding to ensure an easy payout with minimal effort. Tensey ends up dying before the wedding and thus deprives Max of any claims to his money she could have gotten. To say that Max was livid at this development would be an understatement.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Paige who's rude and abrasive but does come to genuinely love Jack. Max might be a terrible mother but she does love her daughter. Dean likewise might be a criminal, but he was really in love with her too.
  • Joisey: Dean. When Max asks if he can help them move the body, he responds "I'm from Jersey, aren't I?"
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Max's runs out when her old partner Barbara cons her out of every penny she ever stole.
  • Likes Older Women: A few of Max's husbands.
  • LOL, 69: When stealing William B. Tensy's car keys the holder number on the board is well you get it.
  • Love Redeems: Max's love for her daughter is her one redeeming quality and brings about a Heel Realization, letting Paige go live her life.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Discussed by Max, since she and Paige give off this contrast. Paige thinks she'll be fine on her own, but Max reminds her that she's only played the easy role of the Whore - since a brief seduction is easy - while getting someone to marry you is trickier.
  • Marrying the Mark: This is the basic premise. One con artist marries a wealthy man, then the second con artist seduces him, allowing the first con artist to divorce him on grounds of adultery and receive an enormous settlement.
  • Maybe Ever After: The last we see of Paige and Jack is her giving him back his bar and confessing her real name. It's left ambiguous whether or not she tells him the full truth or if their relationship will endure.
  • Meaningful Name: Max and Paige's last name is Conners.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Max acts as this to Jack, trying to seduce him before his wedding. However elsewhere she strictly targets older men to con - presumably because "cute is dangerous" and older men are more likely to have a fortune saved up.
  • My Beloved Smother: Max, although quite tame by the rest of the examples of this trope. She sincerely doesn't want her daughter's heart to be broken. However, she will con and lie to her daughter to achieve this. But near the end, when she sees that her daughter truly was in love with their last con, the con that the Smother drugged, she comes clean, and lets her daughter live her life.
    • A straighter example in the mother of a billionaire Paige considers conning.
  • Nice Guy: Jack is, though Max feels she can seduce him. She's wrong.
  • Noodle Implements: The "Trogden Triangle" requires a trumpet and a talking parrot.
  • Oh, Crap!: Max has a small one when she accidentally orders steak tartar in Russian (her disdain at meat in an earlier restaurant implies she's a vegetarian). Has an even bigger one when Dean shows up at the hotel to win her back.
  • The One That Got Away: Dean decides to go after Max because he realizes she's the first woman that ever left him, rather than vice versa.
  • Out with a Bang: Tensey, though more like out just before the bang. He dies with an erection.
  • Pair the Spares: Max and Dean.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The end implies Max and Dean are planning to con Barbara out of the money she stole from Max.
  • Product Placement: Roger Ebert quipped that Jennifer Love Hewitt's Fanservice-y appearance seemed as much a walking advertisement for the Wonderbra as anything else.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dean delivers several to Max when he realizes just how unscrupulous she is.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The end plan of conning Barbara out of the money she stole. Presumably someone with the same Straw Feminist tendencies as Max would never dare to imagine a man would try to con her.
  • Sassy Black Woman: One of the hotel maids.
  • Sensual Slavs: Invoked by Max, when she poses as a sultry Russian called Olga.
  • Shaking Her Hair Loose: When Paige/Wendy is revealed to be Max's daughter she pulls off her red wig and shakes her natural brown hair loose.
  • She's Got Legs: Both of them.
  • Stacy's Mom: Max tries to invoke this with Jack.
  • Straw Feminist: Max believes all men are scumbags who can't commit to one woman. Until she meets Jack that is.
  • Stripperiffic: The clothes Paige wears in the workplace are hardly appropriate. Which is exactly what she's counting on.
  • There Are No Therapists: When Dean discovers what the two are up to he says, "do you have any idea how much therapy you people need!"
  • True Blue Femininity: Max keeps talking about "the blue dress" that Paige should wear for seductions, presumably because of this trope.
  • Tsundere:
    • Paige for Jack. Initially she's tsuntsun as he keeps bugging her, then she pretends to bring out a deredere side when she finds out he has money and once she actually starts to bond with him she's no longer pretending.
    • Dean is Type B for Max. Initially he's madly in love with her, then hates her for conning him but still wants her.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Invoked by Max. A) because they're easier to seduce and B) it puts them off actually sleeping with them and risking pregnancy. As Max puts it "Cute is dangerous. Cute leads to feelings, which leads to screwing, which leads to screwed". Of course Max still remarks that "Dean was kind of cute" and they do end up together.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Max, we're looking at you. She gets better, eventually. Notably the people she and Paige con are even more vile - since Tensey is a Dirty Old Man, Dean was in shady deals, and even the housekeeper is said to be waiting for Tensey to die so she can get an inheritance. The lone exception is Nice Guy Jack.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Max as "Olga" and Paige as "Allison".